THE ART OF KARATE KATA
Aesthetics and Power
Kata in Japanese simply means form and their origin can be traced back to the relationship between China and Okinawa, during the early years of trading between the two countries.
Performing and practising Kata requires the complete immersion into body, mind and spirit - as all three have to be present in embu or performance, or the essence of what kata is all about, is lost.
It is the combination of a range of body movements in a variety of different directions, made up of individual techniques that become progressively more flowing, appearing effortless to the untrained eye. They include simple hand and arm movements at first until balance is achieved based upon the use of correct stances.
Being in the correct stance at every moment of any kata is THE principal requirement of balance and movement from one stance to the other.
Without this element in place at every turn, the very foundation of each form is absent.
And by stance is meant to be not only the height and length of each one that is done - which is critical - but the relationship of one foot to the other and the angles they are placed in to achive stability in the landing and lightness of touch and bounce in preparation for the next move.
A good kata practitioner will eliminate all uneccessary footwork as a basic requisite for fluidity and the smooth flow of movement.
A relaxed and not stiff upright posture is critical to this flow.
Eyes level - chin tucked in just enough - head balancd on the torso - shoulders level at all times - chest slightly raised - lower back hollow - allowing movment reminiscent of a matador.
At an appropriate point - once balance has been achieved on two feet - kicking techniques are incorporated and take time to master in the flow of a kata as balancing moves onto one leg.
The key skill here being how to return the foot to the floor and keeping the flow of the kata alive.
And then the kata comes ito its own as a "dance" (the term in this context is of Chinese origin), made up of a designated number of moves, which have been handed down over time.
Kime is a commonly used Japanese martial arts term, meaning "power" and/or "focus," describing the instantaneous tensing at the correct moment during a technique, where a momentary stillness is observed.
It is the timing of moments like this that "make" any Kata.
It is here where power and control merge and if you lose the latter, the kata disintegrates into a shambles as too much power on poor stances distorts the shape of each and every movement.
It is the biggest mistake that Karateka in general make when performing kata - for in the Embu or performance, the expression of power must be contained so as to maximise the aeshthetic appeal of the Kata.
The combination of this seemingly effortless flow of movement along with perfect timing and pause, creates a series of sequences which tell the "story" to be found in each kata, interspersed with moments of immense power.
It can only be described as breathtakingly awesome to behold and beautiful to watch, as this explosive form of ballet appeals aesthetically as the Art of Karate Kata.
Practitioners of karate kata read the various sequences and turn them into practice drills called Bunkai - the practical application of various techniques with a partner or partners - which naturally leads on to the various forms of Kumite - or sparring.
But first there is the Art of the Kata to master.